Climate Crisis and the Environment

The Future Of The Environment With The Arrival Of Biden To The White House

Photo from Build Back Better Press Conference on Economic Equity - Wilmington, DE - July 28, 2020
Kallista Jayasuriya

In stark contrast to his predecessor, who withdrew the USA from the Paris climate agreement, Joe Biden believes in climate change, and in the importance of urgent action. In one of his campaign videos, he states how we need to act in the next 12 years in order to prevent irreversible damage. As the USA is a huge global power, the policies and recommendations he proposes will have an influence on how the world treats climate change. That begs the question: what is his pledge?

Like the prodigal son, Biden has declared that America will re-join the Paris climate agreement. He does not just stop there: he affirms that global action needs to be cohesive and that countries need to go above and beyond to meet the targets outlined in the Paris agreement. Biden strongly believes that the USA should be the leader of a global effort to tackle global warming.   

On a domestic scale, Biden announced the Clean Energy Revolution plan, which will cost $1.7 trillion. Its objective is to help the USA transform into a “100% clean energy economy”, so investment into technological development is a key part of this plan. However, this still means that the USA will maintain its consumerist and capitalist nature; it is important to ask whether technology is the only solution to achieving a better world.

Biden is very much aware of the unequal effects of pollution and climate change: it always affects vulnerable and innocent populations

Arguably, we also need to reform our relationship with ‘consumption’, particularly near Christmas: the most wonderful time of the year for big polluters. Without a doubt, technology is an important part of solving environmental issues. But, the root of the issue lies in our neo-colonial relationship with the ‘Global South’, from which we rob resources in order to accumulate capital. Thus, we define ‘development’ as industrialisation, and we expect that the ‘Global South’ can reach this level of industrialisation too. Except, in a finite world, this is not possible nor desirable.

Despite his dependence on technology as a solution, Biden does address the social roots of environmental destruction in his campaign video in regard to the disproportionate effects on communities of ethnic minorities. His campaign video includes a shot of a water tower at Flint, Michigan; a majority-black city that suffered a water crisis for half a decade as a result of the state trying to reduce losses in 2014. Therefore, Biden is very much aware of the unequal effects of pollution and climate change: it always affects vulnerable and innocent populations.

It is difficult to tell how Biden’s presidency will shape the environment. What is certain is that his sense of urgency, as well as his financial dedication to cleaning American energy, can only have a positive impact. Those who are concerned about the planet will most likely be relieved that Biden will undertake the re-signing of the Paris accord. Collective action is essential in the fight against environmental devastation.

Kallista Jayasuriya

Featured image from Joe Biden on Flickr. Image licence found here. No changes made to this image.

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Climate Crisis and the EnvironmentLifestyleScience

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